In our previous post, we explored 7 serious health issues your optometrist can detect during your annual comprehensive eye exam. These include:
- High Blood Pressure
- Thyroid disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Brain tumors
- High cholesterol
But your optometrist’s ability to detect health issues lurking within the human body doesn’t stop there. Here are 13 additional health risks and diseases your optometrist can detect by examining the ocular structures in detail:
- Multiple sclerosis (MS). A degenerative disease that attacks the nervous system, multiple sclerosis can be potentially disabling. MS causes the immune system to attack nerve fibers and causes miscommunication between the brain and other parts of the body. When your optometrist detects optic nerve inflammation, that can indicate a diagnosis of MS. Patients with MS often also have double vision, blurred vision, or report pain when moving their eyes.
- Lyme Disease. Spread by ticks, this bloodborne infection leads to total body inflammation that often causes a wide array of symptoms that are difficult to pinpoint as Lyme Disease. Inflammation of the optic nerve is one telltale sign, along with an increase in “floaters” when the infection begins.
- A weakening in a blood vessel’s wall can cause it to swell or bubble out, and can lead to a rupture or leak in the artery, vein or capillary. These weakened blood vessels can occur in the eye. Aneurysms can result in severe consequences, including loss of body function, facial function or an extremely painful one-sided headache. If an aneurysm is detected, medical attention is required immediately.
- Often presenting along with dry eye, this autoimmune disease causes inflammation in many different bodily systems. It can cause swelling of the sclera (the white part of the eye), the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye, or even the tissues of the middle layer of the eye.
- This is another inflammatory disease that can impact multiple organ systems, including the ocular system. Your optometrist will suspect sarcoidosis if the colored part of your eye – the iris – is painful and inflamed in a condition called iritis. Sarcoidosis also can cause very intense light sensitivity in patients.
- Sickle cell disease. A genetic blood disorder, sickle cell patients develop stiff, misshapen red blood cells that can block blood flow in all parts of the body – including the eye. This disease can cause a variety of symptoms in the eyes, from burst blood vessels on the eye’s surface to redness to severe bleeding to retinal detachment.
- Giant cell arteritis. Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a persistent inflammation of the medium-sized arteries that supply blood to the upper body, neck and arms. Because these same vessels supply blood to the eyes, the condition can cause blurred, double vision or even sudden vision loss in one or both eyes.
- Myasthenia gravis. The first symptom of this autoimmune disorder often impacts the eyes. It causes muscle weakness and fatigue, which can result in drooping eyelids, double vision, arm or leg weakness, and in advanced cases, significant problems breathing, swallowing, chewing or talking.
- Sjögren’s syndrome. Another autoimmune disease, Sjögren’s syndrome specifically attacks the glands that make saliva and tears. Dry eyes are a common symptom of this syndrome, as are stinging or burning eyes, blurred vision and dry mouth.
- Sometimes the tiny blood vessels that supply the retina become blocked or contain blood clots. A patient might experience sudden blind spots or the feeling that a curtain is being closed over their vision. This is an indicator of an increased risk of stroke.
- Vitamin A deficiency. If you have dry eyes or night blindness, the cause may be Vitamin A deficiency, a condition that prevents your eyes from making enough moisture to keep eyes well lubricated. The reason this deficiency causes night blindness is that it prevents pigment production needed to keep the retina functioning properly. Sadly, Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness in children worldwide and is preventable. Good sources of Vitamin A include fish oil, liver, milk, eggs and leafy green vegetables along with orange and yellow vegetables and fruits.
- Vascular disease. Bleeding and clotting disorders can result in visible bleeding in or around the eye. Optometrists know this as subconjunctival hemmorhage. Vascular disorders can cause vision loss due to retinal bleeding and damage.
- Sexually transmitted diseases. Did you know sexually transmitted diseases can affect various layers of the eye? These include herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV and genital warts. Sexually transmitted diseases left untreated can cause blindness and affect many areas of the body.
Isn’t it amazing how many serious medical conditions have symptoms that can show up in the eyes?
Your optometrist can help to detect many of these high-risk conditions during your annual comprehensive eye exam. The good news is, by detecting such serious conditions at an early stage, they’re more highly treatable, and the patient will have the opportunity to address the condition and get symptoms under control to prevent or delay more severe outcomes.
Call us and schedule your annual eye exam today!